How Did St. Helena Get Its Name?
St. Helena is the name of one of the "vanished villages" of Letchworth Park. First settled in the 1820s, the community prospered through much of the 19th century. When a post office was established in 1854, it was called "St. Helena".Where did the name come from? Who named it and when?
Much of St. Helena's history is found in two sources - "St. Helena, Ghost Town of the Genesee 1797-1954" by Mildred Lee Anderson and Marian Piper Willey, and "Genesee Echoes" by Mildred Lee Hills Anderson. But neither source seems to shed any light on the origin of the name.
A clue comes from our friend Calvin DeGolyer, who has spent his life in the valley and is the leading authority on St. Helena and the surrounding area. He has written several articles for the "Historical Wyoming" on the Park's history, including "St. Helena and the Genesee River" that appears in the Vol. 50, No 4, April 2004 of the magazine. A portion of the article is found below.
"Shades of Napoleon Bonaparte"
(by Calvin DeGolyer)
"Where did the name St. Helena come from? Did it have anything to do with the place of his final lonely exile in the Atlantic? There is a river flat across from the mouth Wolk Creek named Egypt or Little Egypt, Napoleon was invidaing Egypt when the British Royal Navy destroyed the French fleet in the Battle of the Nile. Downstream from the mouth of Wolk Creek on the west side is a flat called Elba or "Alby." Elba was the island in the Mediterranean where Napoleon was first exiled. St. Helena, in the South Atlantic was the place of Napoleon's final exile and death."
So is St. Helena named after the Atlantic island famous in world history? Although the "when" and the "how" of the naming of the community has not yet been uncovered, it is certainly plausable that one of the area's early inhabitants had a fascination with the story of Napoleon Bonaparte and gave the "ghost town" and nearby river flats their unusual names. We would like to thank Cal DeGolyer for this account and for all the work he has done to preserve the history of Park!